Educators have long said that No Child Left Behind’s attempt to get all students at a certain level by 2014 is impossible, but the superintendent in Helena says that doesn’t mean that all students
shouldn’t improve every year.
“It’s a snapshot of our district compared to others in the state,” superintendent Keith Meyer said. “I want to take the data and find out what the story is telling us.”
Under current law, Helena schools are at risk of federal restructuring and cuts in funding, but a potential waiver option from the Obama administration could provide the district some breathing room.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently said that 82 percent of schools in America could be labeled failures as early as next year without a law change.
While State Superintendent Denise Juneau is interested in the waiver, she first wants to see what strings are attached before deciding whether Montana will apply for it. Juneau is expected to make an announcement Monday about her negotiations with the federal government.
“Montana students and teachers have been working very hard to improve test scores in reading, math and science,” she said. “Their efforts are demonstrated by the progress in our overall academic performances statewide.”
Juneau says that standardized testing is only one piece of the accountability system since it only gives a snapshot of one day every year in three curriculum areas.
Schools are required to meet 41 benchmarks on the state test to meet AYP under the federal NCLB.
A school’s adequate yearly progress is calculated based on test participation, academic achievement, graduation rate and other statistics.
Every few years, the percentage of students who must achieve proficiency on state tests increases to get closer to the 2014 deadline of 100 percent proficiency for all students.
Five of the 15 Helena schools which participate in the Criterion Referenced Test met AYP requirements. School officials are now sorting out the data.
“We are currently dissecting the information and looking at the pieces from a district and in each of the schools and comparing it to the state,” Meyer said.
The plan is to present the data to school trustees at a planning session on Sept. 27, which will play into the district’s developing strategic plan, Meyer said.
Meyer, a former teacher, said assessments are helpful for the growth of students, but there are many ways to assess a student’s ability to learn.
“I never was a teacher that was fearful of the tests — I used it as a measurement on how well I was delivering the curriculum,” he said.
Meyer said the information about how students scored on the test will help the district prioritize.
A full report of how all schools in Montana did on the AYP report card is available online at www.opi.mt.gov
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org